With a few exceptions, the results of the 2022 general election were disappointing, at least in Ohio. Ohio Republicans are already pursuing an extreme agenda to entrench their power more deeply and to bring crucial functions, such as education, more completely under their ideological control.
This is not the time for Democrats to crawl into the corner and lick wounds. Many of us have already had discussions about what we should do next and how we can do better. Over the next few installments of From The Chair, I will discuss some of the ideas I have heard. You may have thoughts about these, have other ideas, or be willing to volunteer to implement some of these ideas. Your feedback is essential! My contact information appears at the end of this piece.
One very important issue is getting our Democratic message out to voters. We need to be doing this constantly, not just around election time.
In my legal career, I have participated in many seminars teaching trial advocacy. Persuading jurors is not fundamentally different from persuading voters. One of the things lawyers are taught in these seminars is the importance of primacy.
Simplified, the concept of primacy is that people tend to retain the first information they receive about a particular subject and that information influences how they think about relevant information they receive after that. Stated differently, primacy means that it is difficult to persuade people to reject what they already “know” about a subject.
In the political context it means that our Democratic messaging is substantially more difficult if voters are constantly hearing and reading the Republican message but do not hear or see ours until a few months before an election.
Republican officeholders automatically have the megaphone of their offices. The Governor, Secretary of State, or a County Commissioner can call the media or issue a press release and what they say will be reported. Democrats lack that kind of platform in Batavia and Columbus, so we must find other ways to communicate.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
One way which is relatively easy and very inexpensive is to write letters to the editor, whether that be to the Clermont Sun, the Cincinnati Enquirer, or some other publication you know about. The media in Southern Ohio is largely owned by Republicans. Some of our letters will not be published. That fact makes it important to submit letters frequently.
Letters should come from many of us. Numerous letters from the same person are easier for both editors and readers to ignore in the belief that they already know what that person will say. Letters from “new voices” are more likely to attract attention. Letters on different subjects, from climate change to education, are more likely to be noticed. No one is interested in “same old.” Letters to the editor should be succinct, clear, and factually accurate. A certain former president notwithstanding, nothing damages credibility more than saying something which is provably incorrect. Do some homework
Another suggestion is to use yard signs. If people see the same message day after day on their drive to work or the store, they are likely to internalize it.
You probably saw the yard signs in Clermont County in 2021 exhorting people to “Stop The Madness” by voting Republican. These signs ignore the fact that Republicans have controlled our County and our State for decades so whatever “madness” exists was their doing. What the signs do, however, is constantly deliver the message that there is “madness” which needs to be stopped.
The more people are exposed to an idea, the more likely they are to believe it. Signs, of course, require resources. Signs cost money, a lot of it. To be effective, signs must be visible. This means they require people willing to give the time to find visible locations, to persuade the property owner to allow the sign to go up, and to put the sign up. Monitoring is also required to ensure the sign stays up and to replace it if it is stolen. Lots of people are interested in candidate signs as an election looms. For signs to work for us, we must have money and volunteers to print signs and get them up at other times as well.
Younger voters are, in general, more likely to vote Democratic. Party labels and loyalty are not that important to young people. As someone younger than me (a huge part of the population) said at a meeting I attended last Saturday, one thing young people have in common is that they all have smart phones. They routinely use those phones to access social media. This means that social media is a prime way to reach a population of potentially persuadable voters.
Social media presents some challenges. First, we need people sufficiently knowledgeable about particular platforms to get things posted in a way that they are noticed. Equally important is posting new material regularly. People are not usually interested in a month-old post about something that happened a month or more before that. Successful use of social media requires volunteers who have some familiarity with the platform and who are willing to post frequently.
Another idea I recently heard is use of radio. Most of us have our radios on at least when we are in our cars. Radio ads, I am told, are not necessarily prohibitively expensive. Still, they are not free. Using radio as a platform for our message will require money, identifying the radio stations which will give us the best outreach we can afford, volunteers to work with those stations, and volunteers to record our spots. Radio is, I think, something we should look at closely. I would love to hear from people who have knowledge of or experience with radio advertising.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE?
You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about the most important part of messaging: what is our message? There are certainly basic concepts on which we can all agree.
- We need to act on the climate crisis.
- Our society and our government need to treat all people equally, regardless of their race, gender, religion, origin, or sexual preference.
- We favor democracy, which means making it easy for people to vote, giving people a fair opportunity to elect whom they want in public office, and giving people an avenue to enact laws on matters their legislators refuse to address.
- Everyone should have the opportunity to live a decent life with adequate food, housing, and healthcare.
MESSAGING INCLUDES LISTENING
We need to avoid the arrogant assumption that we instinctively know what really matters to voters in our County and our State. The election results suggest that our perceptions about that are not as reliable as we wish to believe. We need to keep our eyes, ears, and minds open. While some will disagree, we need a better understanding of what really matters to the people in our communities who vote but are not political activists, in other words the vast majority of voters. We also need to pay attention the language people use. How you say it matters as much as the substance of what you say.
What do you think? What can the Democratic Party do better in Clermont County and in Ohio? What do you think our message should be? How do you think we should get that message out? Are you willing to help? Please reach out to me at (513) 621-9603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you. Stay safe. Happy Holidays.